In 1917 a young apprentice at the Osaka Electric Light Company came up with an improved light socket, which his boss quickly dismissed. He carried on in his basement regardless, like a true pioneer, coming up with stuff like battery-powered bicycle lamps, among other things. He launched his own small company called Matsushita Electric and went from strength to strength. It’s now called Panasonic. Quite famous apparently. And worth over $60 billion.
This one is actually down to luck and sort-of-stumbling on to a gold mine. This computer programmer, soon about to be known as a very successful entrepreneur, needed to sell off some of his possessions and decided to auction them off on a personal website called AuctionWeb. The traffic just started piling up until he was forced to upgrade to a business account and charge people a fee for transactions, and he even hired an employee to handle payment checks. That was a big step for him. That site is now called eBay.
He owned a chain of convenience stores in California. He saw how well 7-11 was doing. He decided that upwardly mobile college grads would appreciate a similar store but one which stocked nice wines, fresh organic vegetables, and other superior items, and that those stores should be located near colleges. So he opened Trader Joe’s, and it worked. Now there are over 450 stores around the country, most of them in California. And he’s personally done very well out of the enterprise.
A young guy working for a coffee bean roaster in Seattle was visiting Italy, seeing the sites and admiring the shapely girls, and he couldn’t fail to slip into the local way of life, which meant drinking lots of quality espressos in the little quaint cafes dotted all around. He decided to try it in America, on his own after his employer professed no interest in owning coffee shops (although he did back him financially) but agreed to sell him his brand name; Starbucks was born. And they’re doing really quite well.
Phil Robertson was a redneck through and through. So, having the choice of playing football in the NFL or going duck hunting, he chose the latter. Obviously. And that would be his major regret you might think. However, he then invented a duck call, started a company, eventually put his son in charge, and the company grew exponentially to become a massive multi-million dollar enterprise involving merchandising and all sorts of spin-offs, including a very funny TV show. And it was all spawned from a bunch of ‘whistles’ to attract ducks. Genius. Alternative investments indeed.
A big one. He grew up dirt poor in Scotland, and he started off his working life as a bobbin boy at the age of 13 (after his family moved to the USA), changing spools of thread on a cotton mill for 12 hours a day. He moved on to telegraph message boy, then got promoted to operator, before then taking on different jobs in the railroad. It was there that he got interested in steel, and it was then that he started making small alternative investments in the steel and oil industries, at the time still in their infancy. He ended up becoming America’s richest man. By investing, and then investing again. A very famous and successful entrepreneur.
Another big one. He started off helping his family milk the cow and sell the milk, then moved on to the more illustrious pastures of newspaper deliveries, before going off to fight in the 2nd World War. He came back and started to manage a variety store, but before long, like any true entrepreneur, he decided to buy his own. With a couple of simple innovations, his store grew very quickly and soon became the Wall-Mart giant the whole world recognizes. At the time of his death, Wall-Mart had almost 2000 stores with annual sales of $50 billion. What you could call a very successful entrepreneur.